Arcam A19 - Kef R100's - Marantz NA7004
I just thought I’d offer my thoughts on these two bits of equipment, partly because there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of opinion for the amp on the forum and to a lesser extent the Epos Epic 2’s.
Until recently, I had a different set up; this being a Marantz PM6004, Marantz NA7004 network player and some Kef Q300 speakers. Please refer to the following post pasted at the bottom of the page for reference to this.
I bit the bullet and sold the Kef’s and the PM6004 amp. In their place, I ordered the Epics and an Arcam A19. In some ways, this could be seen as a bit of a ‘side step’ rather than an upgrade as the speakers only retail for £425 and the amp, although £350 more expensive, had it’s predecessor the a18 typically associated as being in a (broadly) similar bracket to the PM6004.
In the shop, again I was disappointed. I tried the Epics with the Riga Brio R, Arcam a19 and the Audiolab 8200. Overall, the sound with all 3 amps erred towards edgy and little shouty, quite opposed to what I had read of the Epics purported warmth and the Arcam’s restraint or the Riga’s playful warmth. I must admit that it took some listening time during the demo to notice any significant differences between the 3 amps. Overall, I concluded the following from the 1hr 30m audition: -
Riga Brio – arguably had the edge for soft warmth, but if it did, it was a subtle difference. But there was also a slightly perceptible muddling of certain details, in particular the midrange and upper bass.
Audiolab – a good allround performer, but perhaps a little sharp and edgy.
Arcam a19 – the best of the three. Detail retrieval and control/grip over the bass was noticeably the best. But the biggest surprise was the punchiness of the bass. The speakers are by no means far reaching in the bass department, but the bass that there is was beautifully punchy.
All in all there was little in it, perhaps the main factor being price. All 3 amps were capable, with the arcam seeming at that point to be the best overall performer relative to price. I was offered a £50 discount off the Arcam following the Bristol show the weekend before, so decided to go for this.
Thankfully, when I returned home, there was an immediate improvement to the sound, borne from room acoustics no doubt and familiarity with surroundings. Moreover, I could directly compare the sound in situ to my previous Marantz/kef setup. We’ll ignore that though, as I then proceeded to run the speakers in out of phase for about 20 hours, which (I think) improved the sound.
Now up and running for a few days, I am delighted with the sound. I will list the things which are noticeable improvements from my previous set up: -
1) There is considerably better bass, both in extension, definition, speed and overall warmth. By comparison the kefs sounded muddled and thin. This will no doubt come down in part to the Epics sizeable cabinets. The bass is sooo tight and tuneful, it’s just incredible. As above however, it’s also nice and punchy. How much is down to the amp and how much to the speakers I am not sure.
2) The stereo separation is light years ahead of my previous set up. Not only is the soundstage impressively wide, but I can pinpoint where each individual sound/layer is coming from. There’s an immense cleanness to the separation, with no perceived muddling (to my fledgling ears anyway). Tiny little details are revealed with bite and space. This is particularly evident when playing some electronica along the lines of Four tet, zero 7 or Air.
3) The treble is much easier to live with than with the Kefs. I really hated the Kefs metallic treble. I remember reading a post where someone described the Q300’s as ‘like a draw of cutlery’ and I could genuinely relate to this. I think I am oversensitive in this area as even still, with the Epic’s soft domed tweeters (which are renowned for their soft, detailed highs), I still focus in on the treble and often find it dominant and intruding at times. Amazingly though, the detail is increased over the Kef/Marantz combo..significantly so, only it is softer and easier to live with.
4) I have learnt that some recordings are just bad and no matter what the equipment change, they will still sound bad. I’ve learned to accept this.
5) The amp has fantastic build quality, as do the speakers. The latter in particular strike me as an absolute bargain. I even got them for £325 due to being ex display in immaculate condition.
6) The speakers are thoroughly recommended. Detailed, lively, a natural warmth, amazing stereo imaging, beautiful build quality, clean treble and punchy bass. I realise that stereophile and certain other publications have raved about the Epos Epic series, whereas whathifi’s response has been slightly mute by comparison. I just cant understand their assertions that they lack sparkle or detail.
Downsides? Very little. The speakers are quite big for standmounts and wont suit very small rooms. I would still like deeper bass and that comes as a limitation of being a standmount. But I also realise that for my current situation of being in a shared house, using the set up in my bedroom, the floorstanding Epic 5’s just weren’t a viable option.
So yeah, difficult to separate out just how much of the above is the doing of the amp and how much is down to the speakers. All I know is that as a combination, they work beautifully and offer great performance for the price. Thoroughly recommended.
Great insightful write-up.....and very interesting to hear what you thought.
"Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again." André Gide
Nice one. Think it really does need a home dem to fully appreciate what a system can do. It isn't always convenient but well worth the effort.
Amp: Leema Pulse; Source: Naim CD5i-2, Denon 260MKII, Pro-ject XP I; Speakers: PMC TB2i
Formerly known as plastic penguin
Lovely speakers the Epos range. I agree about the home demo wherever possible. I tried out my Epos Elan 30s with my Creek 5350 amp at the dealers and I was taken straight away with how good they both sounded together. However the dealer freely admitted that their demo room was not the greatest and strongly suggested that I try them at home for an extended period of a fortnight to see how they suited my considerably smaller front room compared to the demo room. Deposit left, Elans taken home, and set up pronto. Perfect, they sounded even better in my room, the small compact floorstanders being perfect for my room. They dont appear to be fussy about placement either which is a good thing. Prior to these I'd had a pair of ProAc Studio 125s that I had bought off another forum. Lovely speaker but too much for my front room, quite boomy in comparison to the Elans, but there again I could not really do them justice by having them positioned out in the room sufficiently I think.
That Arcam A19 seems to be a lovely amp by all accounts, and after reading the review in HiFi Choice the new Creek 50A is another similarly priced amp that is highly rated too. There is such a great choice of amplification around that price range these days.
Creek Evolution 5350 amp (with Creek Sequel 40 phonoboard) - Creek Evolution 2 CDP - Squeezebox Touch
Rega P3 TT/RB300/Ortofon 2M Blue - Arcam rDACkw - Epos Elan 30s
Van Damme SC & Epiphany Atratus ICs
Anyone been in a good demo room?
I think that the arcam has alot to do with the sound quality aswell as the speakers, i have had my arcam a19 for about a month now and it does get better and better. I find the output and clarity that this amp delivers is breathtaking.
On volume level 33 it literally fills my room with sound, detail retrival is a major highlight... i'm really and truly satisfied and think that i will be keeping my system for a long time to come. I'm also noticing that the bass is getting better and is really nice and punchy and on certain tracks quite deep considering the r100s are bookshelfs.
Congrats on your purchase and enjoy.
loewe individual compose 46 3D - philips bdp 3000 bluray player - xbox 360 250GB - ps3 120GB
Apologies to the OP.
DIB, can you describe the sonic traits of the Elan 30s?
I would describe my Elan 30s as natural and detailed, with superb bass reproduction where needed. I'm not a bass head by any means but when listening to bass heavy music (Santana's Supernatural comes to mind) I don't feel short changed in anyway, even with the relatively small mid/bass units . My old ProAc 125s for example used to shake the front room in comparison, but when doing a side by side comparison a while ago (certainly under non-scientific conditions I may add) we all agreed that the Elans sounded sweeter. We were listening to Sandy Denny the other evening and my wife (who is definitely in the "they all sound the same" camp) commented how gorgeous she sounded.
I was considering the Epic 5's as a possible option and they did sound terrific in the shop. However, they were a little on the large size for my front room, and also I preferred the Elan finish (mine are the Black Ash variety).
Sorry, describing sonic traits is not really my forte but all in all I love these speakers and would recommend them to anyone for consideration. It's a shame that they are not more widely available in the dealerships.
That's fine, DIB. They sound pretty good, and certainly go and listen as they are the same size as the RS6s. The only Epos speakers I've heard are the M12is a few years ago, and they sounded pretty impressive for the money.
Thanks once again.
Thanks for the review that is very useful. I don't think WHF have reviewed them but judging by the other Epos which they don't rate that highly probably a good thing, they get good reviews elsewhere. I was thinking of upgrading my 20 year old Missions so these could be the ones, what are they like at low volumes.
Yeah they are decent at low volumes, in fact I generally listen at low-moderate levels anyway.
I should add that the overall sound of this setup, although detailed and punchy, is still relatively laid back. It's not 'attacking', which may lack appeal for some people.
Thanks. Most of the music I play now is not attacking, mainly vocals, jazz, classic rock sometimes, world music, blues.
Hmm...spending more time with this and I feel increasingly jaded - I am not sure how much is down to unrealistic expectations, or whether something in the set up is wrong.
All I can focus on is treble! Some recordings are ok, but still, even with these notoriously warm speakers and their smooth, soft domed tweeters, the arcam's detailed, yet laid back presentation (by all accounts) the warm ish sound of the Marantz NA7004 source, and the thick copper cabling...I still find a lot of recordings a bit grating in the treble. Cymbals and Sibilance of voices are the particular area of note. I just can't enjoy the music as I am constantly crisisising this in my head or finding the treble dominant. I do remember on demo that this was the same with the Riga Brio R and the Audiolab, so I'm reluctant to conclude that it's the amp's fault. Likewise, all opinion has attested to Epic 2's smooth and non grating treble!
Yet, I go into my girlfriend's kitchen and her rubbish £150 Sony hi fi is playing, and I can quite happily listen to the music for music's sake and hum along to whatever is playing, not critisising the soundstage/detail/timing etc. Yeah, it's obviously a far far less accomplished sound, but it's softer and isn't 'hard on the ears'.
Some questions therefore:
1) Is simbilance etc pretty much the norm whatever half decent set up you own? Is it more the recording's fault than the speakers/amp?
2) Is it more a case of me just having to adjust to this more detailed, open and transparent sound rather than there being anything inherantly wrong? It seems like a catch 22 - more revealing and 'hi fi' attributes of decent componants perhaps lend to simbilance and grating detail.
3) Maybe an amp change to a NAD C326? Yeah it will be less refined, but would it soften matters?
It almost feels like it's me that's wrong, that is being unrealistic with expectations, with fledgling and naiive ears to boot.
Even thinking about investing in a sub to add bass and therefore add to overall warmth and detract somewhat from the treble. Good idea?
N.B. The speakers are out in the room and nowhere near the backwall.
What speakers cables do you have?
audioquest flx slip bronze cable.
Not sure if im being paranoid, but i remember reading ONE comment from one person on here that they thought the arcam a19 had a horrible top end, so worried it may be the amp. but all other opinion seems to suggest it shares the same rich, laid back tone of the a18
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